Lessons in Customer Service from Doctor Who

Categories: Winnthinks

Last weekend was all about Doctor Who. Hard to believe it’s been going 50 years – and don’t those early episodes look OLD! How times have changed and how technology has moved on since those scratchy black and white days. Even the Daleks have learned how to travel up and down stairs.

The programme has gone from strength to strength in recent years, in no small part because of its willingness to adapt in response to the changing nature of TV-watching Britain (and over 50 other countries, according to the BBC). The first Doctor, played by William Hartnell in 1963, was a match for the perceived ‘typical’ BBC audience of its day: white, 2.4 children, father as the breadwinner, mother as the homemaker. Sure, lots of households weren’t like that at all, but it was a pretty safe place to aim a new family series.

And remember those early Companions? The male ones did all the brave stuff. The early female Companions wore short skirts and screamed a lot. Today’s Companions originate from right across the social demographic – multi-cultural, multi-gendered, different sexual orientations and different class backgrounds – though I believe we are still waiting for the first Companion to be played by an actor with a disability (surely that won’t be long away now, quite right too). And they’re all feisty, smart and resourceful. In other words, Doctor Who (the series) has adapted to embrace a truer modern audience, and Doctor Who (the character) has become more demonstrative, more energetic, more inclusive and more complex. It’s a far better reflection of modern sensibilities and values.

So, I am unashamedly joining in the Doctor Who 50th Celebrations, with what I consider to be three great Customer Service Lessons from The Doctor:

  • 1. Keep regenerating: Like the producers of Doctor Who, we need to be constantly reviewing what our public – our customers – want from us. Are we still meeting a need that is actually there? Or have our customers moved on to something else instead? We need to make sure we’re always offering the right product or service, at the right price, delivered at the right time and to the right quality. Understanding how the environment around us is changing is crucial. 10.2 million UK viewers would not have tuned in on Saturday night if Doctor Who was still broadcasting in black and white.
  • 2. Engage open-mindedly with alien life forms: Sometimes our customers may appear to be living on another planet, with their outlandish expectations and their funny foibles. But just as The Doctor remains implacably un-phased by any new encounter, preferring instead to be curious, we should always take the time to understand our customers and their demands. The customer isn’t always right – but he or she is always the customer. Listening to what they have to say – especially if they’re unhappy about something – is enormously educational.
  • 3. Appreciate the wonderfulness of your travelling Companions: The Doctor’s Companions (even the old fashioned screamy ones) consistently demonstrate resourcefulness, creativity and initiative. Your customer service team is made of the same, wonderful Human Stuff, so why not try to tap into more of those qualities? People who are trusted and given the opportunity to shine will often do just that. It’s good for your working relationships, great for their personal development – and the customers at the end of the process will benefit too.

We’re just coming out of a recession. This is no time to be hiding behind the sofa! Invest in your customer service and hear your customers tell you it’s Out Of This World!


  1. Another great blog!

    Only you could make the conection between the Doctor and Customer Service – gretat fun to read and very true!

  2. Another top post Rebecca. Isn’t it funny that sometimes we look at our customers like they’re some sort of alien life form? We think of them as strange and that they just don’t get it or understand our world and the way it works. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we’re in business to serve and the way we can do that best is to step into their shoes and understand their world. As you rightly said, it doesn’t make them right, but we will be in a better position to understand their point of view. And as many of us know, the key to sales and marketing is knowing your customer.

    Great stuff Rebecca. I am as always you’re humble fan.

  3. Enjoyed your article Rebecca & loved the way you tied in with Doctor Who

  4. Can’t believe I’ve only just got around to reading this! Great fun to read and certainly strikes a chord – I’m sure that like me a lot of people out there have spent time working with Daleks and other assorted aliens!

    Won’t wait so long to read your next one! Thanks again.

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